'Really happy': Thai fans of Man Utd, Liverpool paint Bangkok red

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After the rains came the red wave, as tens of thousands of jersey-wearing fans surged into Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium to witness Manchester United and Liverpool's pre-season clash on Tuesday night.

The renovated stadium -- boasting a newly laid pitch that was hastily covered to protect it during a downpour ahead of the match -- is hosting the Premier League titans for the latest chapter of one of the oldest rivalries in English football.

For Thai Termjit 'Ip' Trungchitvilas, proudly wearing her Liverpool shirt, it was a dream come true.

"It's my first ever time seeing them play," the 36-year-old, who has supported the team for the past three decades, told AFP.

With tickets starting at 5,000 baht ($140), fears over filling the 51,000 capacity stadium -- with scattered reports ahead of the match of cut-price tickets -- seemed borne out by swathes of empty upper tiers in the stands.

Trungchitvilas paid 15,000 baht ($420) for her ticket, snapping up her seat on the first day the tickets went on sale.

"It's a lot of money," she admitted, but added it was worth it to see her favourite player Mohamed Salah in person.

While Salah was on the bench as the match started, Manchester United's superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was not on the trip as speculation mounted over his future at the club.

But United fan 'Paht' Siripanichleul, 25, said he was still overjoyed to be at the stadium to see his favourite players, as preseason football tours by Europe's top clubs return to Asia for the first time since the pandemic.

"I'm really happy they are doing this tour, its important for the fans," he said.

As night fell the crowd was warmed up with a pyrotechnic show from K-pop star Jackson Wang and a performance from popular Thai singer Mili -- who shot to international fan after eating sticky rice and mango at the Coachella music festival in the United States.

The thousands of fans who were present roared as the teams emerged, with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp drawing the biggest screams.

And once the whistle went for the kickoff, at 8:00pm (1300 GMT), the crowd did their best to show it wasn't quantity but quality that counted as the polluted night air reverberated with chants, frenzied clapping, screams and cheers.

"I love Liverpool so much," said 29-year-old accountant 'Air' Nantaporn, who couldn't stop beaming and giving thumbs-up gestures.

"It's a good day for me, I hope".

rbu/dh